Airstream to expand production to meet booming RV demand

Key Points
  • Airstream is expanding production, after delivering a record number of RVs in 2017.
  • The company plans to invest $40 million and hire 300 more employees as it builds a production plant in Jackson Center, Ohio.
  • The company will break ground on the plant in May and expects to begin manufacturing a year later.
Airstream CEO: We’re not recession proof, but we’ve had a strong run
Airstream CEO: We’re not recession proof, but we’ve had a strong run

After delivering a record number of RVs in 2017, Airstream is expanding production to meet growing demand for its iconic silver travel trailers.

The company is investing $40 million and hiring 300 employees as it builds an all-new production plant in Jackson Center, Ohio.

"We need this. Demand is strong and growing," CEO and President Bob Wheeler told CNBC. "This expansion will allow us to increase our capacity by 50 percent."

Airstream does not release annual sales, though Wheeler says the company's record deliveries in 2017 represented an eight-fold increase from 2009, when sales bottomed out during the recession.

Wheeler knows there is plenty of speculation as to when the U.S. will see its next recession, but as of right now none of the economic indicators tells him Airstream should prepare for a slowdown.

"All arrows are pointing in the right direction," he told CNBC. "Fuel prices are relatively low, there's strong credit availability, and consumer debt is manageable right now."

Airstream currently employs about 900 workers at its Jackson Center plant, about an hour northwest of Columbus. As sales have risen in recent years, the company has grappled with meeting demand while running out of a space.

Last year, sales of all RVs jumped 9.6 percent to 472,200, an all-time high, according to the Recreation Vehicles Industry Association. This year is expected to be a ninth-straight year of higher sales.

Airstream, which is owned by Thor Industries, delivers 95 travel trailers each week.

The company plans to break ground on its new facility in May and be ready to start manufacturing in it by May 2019.